Last month I wrote a blog post with a number of, I am sure you will agree, fascinating facts (?!) about the flute, and the month before that about the trombone. I am going to continue this month to tell you more about instruments in the woodwind and brass family of instruments, with a few facts about the oboe.
- The oboe is an instrument from the wind family of instruments.
- Wind instruments, or woodwind instruments, are instruments that used to be made out of wood, and that you blow air across, through or down to make a sound.
- Although woodwind instruments used to largely be made out of wood, now they can be made from a range of materials: plastic, metal, wood, brass, or a combination of these materials.
- The oboe is a long instrument that is wider at the bottom than the top. A double reed is placed at the top of the instrument and a player will blow through this double reed to make a sound. Often the reeds are handmade by the oboe player.
- It takes a lot of air pressure to make a sound with the oboe.
- An oboe player is called an oboist.
- If you go to a concert or show that features an orchestra, once all the orchestra members have come onto the stage and taken their seats, you will hear one note being played. That note is A, the note the orchestra uses to tune their instruments to at the start of the concert. It is always the oboist who plays A for the rest of the instruments to tune to. This is because the oboe has a very stable pitch, and it also has a very distinctive sound that can cut through the rest of the orchestra, and is easily heard for the other players.
- The earliest instrument that is like an oboe is probably the shawm, a medieval reed instrument from the 14th Century.
- In the Court of Louis XIV in France, in the mid 1600s, there was an instrument called the Hautbois, or “High-wood”. The pronunciation of Hautbois, is quite similar in sound to our word Oboe.
- The oboe as we know it today dates from 1906.
- The instruments from the oboe family include the piccolo oboe, oboe, oboe d’amore, coor anglais, bass oboe and heckelphone.
- There is an entry in the Guiness Book of Records for the fastest oboe player in the world. Jack Cozen Harel played the whole piece, Flight of the Bumblebee by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 26.1 seconds. There are 409 notes in Flight of the Bumblebee, meaning that Jack Cozen Harel played an astonishing 15 notes per second!
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